Poker Under Arms
Poker Under Arms (武装ポーカー Busō Pōkā) is a Japanese shōnen manga one-shot written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki. Having been a "Selected Work" runner-up at the Tezuka Awards, this Wild West one-shot was Araki's first published work and his official debut as a manga artist.
A Western set in a town without laws. The story begins with a wealthy old man telling his accounts of a dangerous poker game between gunmen.
Don Peckinpah (ドン・ペキンパー Don pekinpā) is an infamous gunman with a bounty of $10,000 on his head, making him a constant target for bounty hunters looking for fame and riches. He is often described as being the devil, due to his malicious yet calm nature. At the start of the story, Peckinpah has just killed his latest victim, a bounty hunter who tried to ambush him at the barbershop. Peckinpah is impressed by the cleverness of the ploy but states that it wasn't enough because he is smarter and a faster draw.
After leaving the barber, Peckinpah enters a bar and orders a drink. At the bar, he overhears a group of poker players and asks if he can join them. One of the players, Mike Harper (マイク・ハーパー Maiku hāpā) is an equally skilled gunman with also bounty of $10,000 who's just arrived in town. To show off, Peckinpah takes four cards and flicks them into the deck to push out the four aces. Not to be outdone, Harper then mixes the deck so that the four aces end up at the top, scaring the other players away. The two gunmen agree to play one-on-one.
Mike Harper quickly reveals himself to be the better player and keeps winning. Frustrated by his losing streak, Peckinpah takes out his anger on a drunken old bum interrupting the game. Regaining his composure, Peckinpah devilishly suggests that they bet their guns to make the game more interesting, which would the loser defenceless against anyone wanting to claim their bounties. Unaware of the bluff, Mike Harper reluctantly agrees. Peckinpah secretly switches his cards and reveals his hand, four of a kind in queens. Unfortunately, Harper has also cheated and also has four queens. When the bum points this, out, Peckinpah and Harper throw the table and draw. At this moment, the old bum throws a molotov cocktail at the two gunmen, killing both.
And so the old rich man's story ends. The old man's girlfriend appears to remind him they have to go back him. The woman also mentions seeing him in the newspapers having killed two criminals and saying that being a sheriff must be hard, revealing the old man's true identity.
In his book Hirohiko Araki's Manga Technique, Araki explains how he's designed his one-shot to be as appealing as possible.
For starters, Araki chose the Western setting to stand out from the competition. Having the idea of a story about gambling and violence, Araki titled his work "Poker Under Arms" to evoke both of these concepts. Figuring that most competitors would feature their protagonists in the cover page, Araki decided to do the opposite and draw an unknown man being gunned down during a game of poker.
To start the story, Araki eschewed directly introducing his protagonists and instead used the character of the old man as a mysterious narrator. Araki then purposefully introduced Don Peckinpah in the second page in the barbershop to show the reader that he was a formidable gunman and a guy tough enough to be able to care about his appearance in the midst of a dangerous gunfight. Araki also decided to have Don Peckinpah gun down someone in an unusual place (the barbershop) to show the readers that the setting wasn't a normal town.
Araki also designed Don Peckinpah and Mike Harper's appearances so that they contrasted each other. Details include Don Peckinpah's whirt shirt against Harper's dark jacket, Peckinpah's dark hair against Harper's light hair, or Peckinpah's thick eyebrows against Harper's narrow ones.
This one-shot has been created in order to be presented at the 1981 20th Tezuka Awards and won the "Selected Work" runner-up distinction, meaning that none of the works have technically won this year, but Araki's one-shot still drew the attention of the judges.
- Tetsuya Chiba: The dialogue in "Poker Under Arms" is vivid and tasteful. The characters of the two poker players are well-defined and competently portrayed.
- Yasutaka Tsutsui: Although of the same standard as usual, this time "Poker Under Arms" was unquestionably entertaining.
- Noboru Baba: "Poker Under Arms" has a good storyline. The introduction to the main story is also good. It's a pity that the final page, where the sheriff appears, is a small panel.
- Yusuke Nakano: The common denominator throughout is the prominence of skill and the weakness of the ability to woo the mind. However, "Poker Under Arms", "Cosmo Frontier", "The Fighter", "Loot! Smuggling Play", for example, are promising newcomers to the scene. If these newcomers continue to grow, I'm sure they will bring about a change in the world of shonen magazines...no, in the world of comics.
- Abe Takahisa: There were no outstanding works, but they were of intermediate quality. Among them, "Poker Under Arms" was quite strong and kept the reader engaged until the end. The only drawback is that it is a high degree!
- Osamu Tezuka: Among the works, "Poker Under Arms" is the most entertaining. It's a bit mature, but it's thrilling and has an excellent composition that makes you think you're watching a film. An undisputed semi-finalist.
- Some of the characters in this seminal work bear a similar appearance to others in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
- A book titled Poker Under Arms can be seen on Rohan Kishibe's bookshelf in I Want You, the ending of the Diamond is Unbreakable anime.